The Catawba Claw

Jan 27, 2023 9:12:05 GMT -6 0 Replies
Several years ago, while watching a Minnesota-Buffalo preseason game, I noticed a Bills defensive back by the name of Jumal Rolle. Another Rolle? There'd been quite a string of defensive back-playing Rolles to hit the NFL over the years. Samari Rolle, Antrel Rolle, Myron Rolle, now Jumal Rolle. I checked to see if Jumal played at at a Florida college like the rest. Instead of Florida St. or Miami, I found little Catawba College in Salisbury, North Carolina. This brought a rush of memories. Memories of Steve Sabol talking about "the Catawba Claw." One of the greatest nicknames in NFL history.

Bucky Pope flashed upon the football world in 1964. Then, he was gone. He might have been lost in history if not for his fantastic nickname. Pope was a two-sport schoolboy sensation in Crafton, Pennsylvania, near Pittsburgh. Football and basketball. Duke recruited him to play basketball. He played freshman ball there but grades became an issue. They wanted him to attend summer school to work on those grades. He didn't want to go. So, he returned home. A friend suggested that he check out Catawba. He wasn't too enthusiastic about the place at first. The school eventually grew on him and he enrolled in 1961. Basketball again came first. Pope became eligible on January 27, 1962. He scored 28 points in his first game against rival Lenoir-Rhyne. He averaged 19.4 points in the 61 games that he played for the Indians. Football found Pope when Catawba coach Harvey Stratton noticed him flying around in a flag-football intramural game. "He asked if I'd played football, and I said was from western Pennsylvania, where everybody played football," Pope recalled. The Catawba basketball coach didn't much care for his new star playing football. The two coaches reached an understanding. Pope would play end for the football team but only to make receptions and defend passes. An interesting arrangement. In two seasons, he caught 66 passes for nearly 1200 yards. His huge season was 1962 when he was a startling new weapon for the Indians. His numbers dropped a bit in 1963 due to persistent double coverage.

While Bucky Pope was at Catawba, an artist portrayed him in a cartoon as a hybrid sports hero-half basketball player, half football player. His left arm extending skyward like a claw. "The Catawba Claw" was born.

Pro football scouts had heard about 'the Catawba Claw" despite only two years at a small college in Salisbury, North Carolina. The Los Angeles Rams sent Hall of Fame receiver and then general manager Elroy Hirsch to check out the young receiver. The Rams saw enough in Pope to pick him in the eighth round of the 1964 NFL Draft. At 6'5" and fast, he would fit in well today. His size and speed was unheard of in 1964. In an early training camp practice, Rams quarterback Roman Gabriel threw a pass as far as he could. Pope ran it down. The Rams had something.

In an early season game against the Detroit Lions, Pope caught an under-thrown pass while lying on his back. He hadn't been touched so he got up and ran for a long touchdown. Then came a breakout game against the Chicago Bears. A three touchdown game against San Francisco. A 95-yard touchdown against Green Bay. By December, Pope was in Sports Illustrated. People couldn't get enough of "the Catawba Claw." His rookie season in the NFL was terrific. 25 receptions for 786 yards for an incredible 31.4 yards per catch. He tied Chicago's Johnny Morris and Washington's Bobby Mitchell for the league lead with 10 touchdown receptions. His impact on the league as a rookie reminds of the arrival of Randy Moss in 1998. Both brought jaw-dropping big plays every time they stepped on a football field. Both forced defenses to reevaluate how they approached these unusual receivers.

After the 1964 season, Bucky Pope had six months of reserve duty with the army. This forced him to rush back for an exhibition game prior to the 1965 season. He injured his knee in that game. He was never the same. He missed the entire 1965 season. He played a little in 1966. His one reception was a 14-yard touchdown. He had eight receptions for 152 yards and two touchdowns in 1967. He was in Atlanta's training camp and played briefly for Green Bay in 1968 before calling it quits. He knew that it was over. "The knee-I'd lost the speed, couldn't make the cuts." said Pope.

Roman Gabriel insisted that Bucky Pope was one of the best that he'd ever seen. "The Catawba Claw" was a one season sensation. There's no way to know for sure what he might have been. His unusual size and speed made him a nightmare for defenses. The Rams were an annual contender as the '60s became the '70s. Maybe, Pope would have been the difference. Instead, we are left with one dynamite season and nickname. "The Catawba Claw."

The Catawba Claw


kidchess: who wants to shout in real life, ill be at the minneapolis downtown east waiting Jan 13, 2023 22:22:42 GMT -6
kidchess: just playing Jan 13, 2023 22:22:52 GMT -6
bobbyc: Terrible play calling...Last play; need 8 yards, throw a 3 yard pass; 2nd possession; third and 1, no fullback in game...No Dalvin Cook..... Jan 15, 2023 19:11:18 GMT -6
bobbyc: The good news is that Cousins gets to cash his weekly $673,076 check tomorrow Jan 15, 2023 19:43:57 GMT -6
Purple Pain: Sorry for the delay! Divisional Round for Pick 6 is now up! Jan 19, 2023 12:38:35 GMT -6 *
Purple Pain: Link: Jan 19, 2023 12:38:50 GMT -6
Reignman: Not to get all grammar nazi on you kirko, because it's my least favorite kind of nazi, but you really need to learn how to use punctuation so the verbal diarrhea that your fingers create is at least comprehensible while you're being consistently wrong. Jan 21, 2023 15:17:14 GMT -6
Purple Pain: Again, sorry for the delay! Jan 26, 2023 19:11:29 GMT -6
Purple Pain: Championship Weekend for Pick 6 is up: Jan 26, 2023 19:11:53 GMT -6
Purple Pain: Super Bowl edition is up for Pick 6: Feb 8, 2023 9:41:14 GMT -6
vikadam: SKOL VIKINGS RULE!!! Mar 16, 2023 9:55:40 GMT -6
andhesloose28: Why are my shouts deleted? Apr 13, 2023 7:24:34 GMT -6
Funkytown: If something was deleted, I'm assuming you already know why. But to answer your question, several mods moderate the board. If something is low-quality nonsense, mods have the authority to edit, move, or delete as they see fit. Hope that helps. Apr 13, 2023 10:37:40 GMT -6
Ted Glover: Speaking of low quality nonsense, I hope everyone tunes in to the 'Vikings Report With Drew And Ted' live NFL draft shows on Thursday and Friday night for the first three rounds. We'll be on for every pick, and we've got some cool prize giveaways too! Apr 15, 2023 13:22:59 GMT -6 *
Reignman: oooooo I love low quality nonsense May 25, 2023 15:46:19 GMT -6
Funkytown: Of course you do, Reign. Of course you do. lol May 25, 2023 20:17:44 GMT -6
TAFKASP: There is no such thing as high quality nonsense. May 27, 2023 18:26:09 GMT -6
Reignman: Bullcorn, my nonsense is always high quality 8D May 29, 2023 14:04:04 GMT -6
Funkytown: Yep. That's what I was thinking. Reignman is high quality nonsense. Jun 2, 2023 18:37:45 GMT -6
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